Last year, I found myself riding shotgun in my best friend’s car when she answered a call on speakerphone for a job interview. The audacity, I thought! Not only did she have no qualms about taking this highly important call with me listening in, but she was unphased by the fact that she was simultaneously navigating traffic and finessing a new career opportunity. But then, I sat back quietly and listened. And soon, I realized that no audience or situation would distract her from revealing her most authentic, confident self to a prospective employer—she was just that good.
Over the next few minutes, I witnessed a masterclass in interviewing. She spoke with absolute authority when it came to her past experience, and she was eager to share some ideas for what she would bring to the table on day one. Her banter in between questions was clever and cool and inspired laughter from the other end of the line. When compensation came up, she took control of the conversation and was quick to note that her ballpark was about $10,000 above theirs.
She knew exactly what she wanted, why she deserved it, and she didn’t waiver or back down. Soon after ending the call, she got an official job offer, and I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised.
But how often does a seamless interview experience like that unfold? According to everyone else I know, the answer is rarely. Selling yourself in an authentic, earnest way without coming off like an asshole is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to most. As early as the very first question, so tell me about yourself, if you’re not on your A-game and projecting the know-how required to get the job done, you could easily lose the opportunity.
To help you navigate the intimidating world of job interviews, we tapped a few folks who know their stuff such as career coaching experts and HR leads who have hired hundreds of employees throughout their career. Ahead, their advice on exactly how to nail your reply to the oh-so-common “tell me about yourself” question to get your conversation off on the right foot—and put you in solid contention for the job.
How to bring your most confident self to a job interview—and dazzle employers
“This is your opportunity to summarize who you are and what you’ve done, in a quick, concise, and compelling way. It’s important to practice your opening line as much as possible because it sets the tone for the interview and keeps you from rambling about your entire background. Remember to tie the ending to the current position and company.” — Irina Pichura, former Fortune 500 recruiter and founder, Career Manifestations
Give yourself a pep talk
“Being my biggest cheerleader instead of my biggest critic has helped me in more ways than I can explain. It’s a good habit that gets hard to shake. Even after years of speaking to audiences of thousands or presenting to my board or to groups of investors, I still always say to myself, you’re going to kill it. It redirects nervous energy and thoughts in a positive direction.” — Addie Swartz, CEO of ReacHire
Stay on track
“[The key is] providing enough information that they want to get to know you further; however, avoid a five-minute explanation of your life story. Employers are looking for confidence; don’t ask the interviewer what they want to hear or what they would like to know. Provide a brief overview of your job history and why you are interested in this particular job. Ensure that the information provided aligns with your professional history and not your personal life.” — Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, founder, Feather Communications
“The first question is a great opportunity to quickly walk the interviewer through your career steps, highlighting the logical path from one step to another that now has placed you to be the perfect experienced and qualified candidate for this role.” — Anna Cosic, Brooklyn-based career coach
“Don’t spend more than a few minutes recounting your career path to date. Your goal is to interest them and explain why you’re there, but you don’t want to bore or overwhelm them either.” — Amanda Oliver, career consultant and founder, The Color Coded Life
Showcase your value
“Share examples of projects you completed at past jobs—maybe even ahead of deadlines—and how your efforts positively affected your department or the company, or helped your team meet their goals. Make a list of projects that you volunteered for that went well beyond your current job description and provide hard numbers and case studies in which you over-delivered and share these during the job interview.” — Addie Swartz, CEO of ReacHire
Be a team player from the beginning
“Start off by sharing what the team you were a part of and/or led achieved and then add what your personal contribution was. For example, ‘My team was in charge of a major rebranding that led to a 20 percent increase in sales over our whole product portfolio. I zeroed in on talking to the clients to make sure we were offering them what they needed. I did this by X, Y, and Z.’
“Then, emphasize the insight you had that led to the accomplishment. By sharing that you understood what needed to be done shows them that you’re a problem solver with critical thinking and leadership skills.
“So you might say, ‘I realized that there were major inefficiencies in our product development process, based on the complaints in the company as well as from clients waiting for weeks or months for features to be released. So I had a talk with our CTO and from there, I designed a new product development process that has since led to X, Y, Z.’” — Anna Cosic, Brooklyn-based career coach
Tell a micro-story
“The best way to answer this question is to pick two to three attributes about yourself that would translate well to the needs of the position you’re applying for and then tell a ‘micro-story’ to convey how this attribute has come to life for you in the past. By telling a story, it shifts the candidate from the awkward ‘selling mode’ and into a reflection mode, drawing on something that actually happened.
“In telling ‘micro-stories,’ it makes the candidate’s attributes come to life. And, because those things actually happened, it doesn’t come off as peacocking. This strategy also gives insight into the candidate as a whole person, not just what’s on paper. This is incredibly important when assessing fit into the organizational culture.” — Carrie Weaver, CEO & Executive Coach, Silver Branch Consulting
Don’t forget to do your research
“Research the job and the job responsibilities to understand what achievements you or your teams have made that are relevant to the success of the job you are pursuing.” — Matthew Gibbs, co-founder, Recruiterly
Keep the prep similar for phone and video interviews
“If you’re interviewing via phone or video conference, put sticky notes in front of you that say ‘Smile!’ It may seem silly, but it makes a difference in how your face sounds and we often get so nervous and caught up that we forget to do it. You can also have your resume or a list of bulleted points you want to hit in front of you as well.” — Amanda Oliver, career consultant and founder, The Color Coded Life
The Confidence Club at the Girlboss Rally is full of empowering, IRL workshops designed to help you find your voice and tackle any negative self-talk. To save your spot, register now at girlbossrally.com.